Munch and Lunch

Today ends a week from me at the Alliance Francaise. Each afternoon I have been taking the metro across town and for 4 hours trying to learn more french.

Merde. C’est difficile.  Of course this is minutes after I have finished my baguette jambon or poulet roti and for the first hour or so I have to remember my eyes should be open.

Our teacher is a lively comedian who is less interested in grammar and the textbook and more interested in telling us the culture and faults of the Parisian. Most of the time we – slightly advanced beginners – have a half smile hoping to pick words and understand completely his fast expressive jokes and explanations. After some early frustrations I have decided that he is exactly what I need. He has asked us to train our ears and to listen and practice all the time. I have my french TV on but I feel like I have an ear of stone. It is starting to shape into a crude block by Rodin. Maybe by December it will be a delicate sculpture by Bernini.

Of the class of 15 we have 3 Spaniards, 2 Brazilians, 2 Americans, 1 each from Japan, England, South Africa, UK, Argentina, Norway and Mexico. Our own UN.

Playing at the Pompideau until December is a collection of paintings by Edvard Munch – Norway’s premier artist and launcher of countless inflatable punch toys (” The Scream”).

Happily this exhibit avoids Munch’s most popular painting altogether and focuses instead on his link to 20th century modern masters such as Matisse and Kandinsky. Many of the paintings are indeed strikingly blunt renderings of a bleak interior life – the symbolist/ expressionist we know. ‘Puberty’ a painting of a young girl covering her private area is so personal you almost have to turn away. However, what the Pompideau curators point to is his embrace of the flat rectangle of the painting. A concept I was taught to associate with Cezanne and Picasso.  Munch juggles opposing concepts – the painting as flat object that exists without representing something else AND as a view into an interior landscape fraught with Freudian complications. Cool.


About Russell Parkman

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